Today I received a thank you note from my granddaughter, Sophia. She just turned one this month. She thanked me for many things and I cried, as usual. But as you must have guessed her mother had written the note for her. Perhaps, Julie, my daughter had just read today's reading.
In this story we hear Jesus preaching to a crowd of people. A group of lepers gather and cry out to Jesus to heal them. Perhaps if the crowd did not hear them they certainly could smell the odor in their clothes. Jesus sees the lepers and shouts out to them. "Go show yourselves to the priests." The lepers turn around at once and start off to show themselves to the priest in the town. This is done so that anyone that is declared unclean will have a legal avenue that says that they are now legally clean. And as the story goes the lepers become healed on the way to the temple.
I am struck that Jesus did not go to the group of lepers and show them compassion and hope before he sent them on their way. It seems out of character for Jesus because he always reached out to touch the infirmed and sick as a sign or their worth. I have been looking at images of St. Francis, the pope, laying hands on sick children and this week laying hands on men with deformed faces and some with grotesque growths on their faces with the idea of asking God to heal them. At first wondered why Jesus seemed to ignore the group. In my later remarks I will address what was happening.
What is important to remember about this scripture passage is that Jesus ordered the group of ten to show themselves to the priests. All ten of them obeyed and headed to the temple. On the way they were healed.
On the way to the temple they suddenly were aware that they were healed. What jubilation!! What joy!! The realization that they were all healed and looked normal after years and many years of must have knocked some of them down on the ground uttering great prayers and crying uncontrollably. Some could not utter a sound because of the profound emotion that was emitted.
When the men had a chance to think for a while they must have mixed feelings. Now some of them had to think of ways to support themselves and wondered how they would do it. People in the community had seen them as thieves and robbers. And, yes they were. Others in the community had given them handouts just to get them away from their homes. Other people in the community must have been worried about their children because I am sure that they had been asked by the lepers to give them some of the food they were eating. Now for a long time they had to find a job, if they were able. The ones who had had leprosy for the longest had physical disabilities that would make them unable to work.
Others longed to see their families wondering if they still had a family and a wife who would welcome them in. I hope they did have caring people in their community that would welcome them into their home who might be worrying if the disease would come back.
These healed men needed clean clothing, food, work, and a change of heart from thieving and robbing in order to live. But they also needed a changed community that would forget about past offenses, crimes, and, yes, past smells. All of these men followed what Jesus asked them to do. They obeyed Jesus and were on their way to the temple. Can we all ask ourselves if Jesus would have asked us to do something unusual, without any thought of being healed, would we have followed the instructions of Jesus?
Now I would like to mention the Samaritan man. It is written in scripture that he returned to Jesus and fell at his feet and thanked him. Jesus goes into his famous discourse that says: "Ten were cleaned; where are the other nine". I feel safe in saying that Jesus knew that the other nine had already given thanks to God. But in this Gospel story Jesus is telling Jewish people that they must accept and be kind to strangers including Samaritans. What better way to do this is to accentuate the man's ethnic origin and make a grand gesture that this stranger had come back to Jesus to thank him publically? Shouldn't all people to the same.
We probably have not had leprosy and was noticed by many, many people, but we have certainly have acted deformed, crazy, selfish, unkind, and even have been convicted of crimes. We have to obey Jesus' word and repent. Then we have to be open to others who have acted differently, been incarcerated, and been ostracized by the community and even in families. This is a hard job to do. It is also important to not just once but to do this repeatedly to people who are trying to rebuild trust.
I am going to be more aware of thanking more people who have been kind to me when I have not acknowledged it. I plan on writing more thank you notes. I also am going to be more vocal to people if someone has been gracious and compassionate.